Richard Blanco Reads New Poem at Opening of U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba

Posted on August 14, 2015

Cuban American poet Richard Blanco read a special commissioned poem he wrote at the ceremony in Havana, Cuba, re-opening the U.S. Embassy in Cuba. Secretary of State John Kerry led the proceedings.

The poem is entitled Matters of the Sea or Cosas Del Mar. The subject is the reconciliation of Cuba and the United States, despite the sea that exists together. The poem explores the experiences and shared horizons that both peoples share. He issues a call for healing and reconciliation.

Mr. Blanco was raised in Miami, Florida. His parent emigrated to the U.S. from Spain after being exiled from Cuba by the Castro regime. He was the inaugural poet at President Obama's second inauguration. He is the first Latino, openly gay person and immigrant to hold the title of inaugural poet

He told NPR that this was both one of the easiest and the hardest poems he's written in his career so far. He says the political situation is complex and because of his family history the subject matter is very close to him.

He discussed his inspiration saying, "[T]he inspiration that first came to me was this idea of those 90 miles that everyone always sort of talks about that's almost at this point cliche - you know, the 90 miles between these two countries that might as well be 9,000 miles." That was the starting point for the poem. He explained, "So I started thinking about that and how to make that something not about separation, but about unification. And so it's the sea that separates us, but it's also the sea that unites us."

Mr. Blanco's memoir is The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood. Here is a clip from the poetry reading part of the ceremony today:

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